A senior North Korean official and the top U.S. diplomat had dinner in New York on Wednesday as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un try to salvage prospects for a high-stakes nuclear summit. It is the highest-level official North Korean visit to the United States in 18 years.
Kim Yong Chol, the former military intelligence chief and one of the North Korean leader’s closest aides, landed mid-afternoon on an Air China flight from Beijing. Associated Press journalists saw the plane taxi down the tarmac before the North’s delegation disembarked at JFK International Airport. During his unusual visit, Kim Yong Chol had dinner for about an hour-and-a-half with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who traveled from Washington to see him.
The two planned a “day full of meetings” Thursday, the White House said. Their talks will be aimed at determining whether a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, originally scheduled for June 12 but later canceled by Trump, can be restored, U.S. officials have said. The talks come as preparations for the highly anticipated summit in Singapore were barreling forward on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, despite lingering uncertainty about whether it will really occur, and when. As Kim and Pompeo were meeting in New York, other U.S. teams were meeting with North Korean officials in Singapore and in the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone.
“If it happens, we’ll certainly be ready,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the Singapore summit.
Regarding the date for the meeting, she added, “We’re going to continue to shoot for June 12th.”
North Korea and the United States are still technically at war and have no diplomatic ties because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.